Archive for January, 2010

Woodworking “Appliances”

Friday, January 29th, 2010

The workshop is too cool for epoxy work, keeping the boat building project on hold.

So, what else am I doing in a cold workshop? Making woodworking “appliances,” working down the to-do list of small projects. Each of these was a fairly small project and done with materials on hand.

A shooting board is handy for planing the ends of boards, getting them square. There isn’t a lot of need for anything straight or square in most parts of a boat, but there are other projects that occasionally need a squared up component. No particular plans were used for this shooting board. They are simple enough to not need detailed plans, so I made this one to a size convenient to the material on hand. The material is from some shelving that has been standing unused for a couple of decades, glued up, hard, splintery, Southern yellow pine. The best attributes of this material are that it’s stable and was paid for years ago. The fence is adjustable. I also made an extra board to accommodate miter shooting. ¬†While very simple, and made of almost throw away materials, this tool is great fun to use. Splash some alcohol or mineral spirits on the end of a board that needs truing. Then shoot it with that big ole jointer plane. The mass of the plane does the work effortlessly, making that end grain shine with smoothness.

A carving jack is a device for elevating a work surface to a convenient height for close work. This would have been very handy when I was carving the scrolls on the stems of the Fiddlehead boat. Not having one of these, I used the table of a band saw as a poor substitute. This is a dead simple appliance, a simple “T.” The material was straight from the scrap pile, a couple of pieces so badly cupped and twisted that they were reduced to a mere image of their former selves to correct the defects. To get a little bit of new practice, I used a mortise and tenon with a doubled tenon, fixed firmly with wedged tenons. The mortises were fabulously clean (in comparison to previous work like this). My tenons were rough sawn and then trimmed to fit. Before someone asks (someone always does), yes, that’s a glue line on the end of the table piece. Yep, busted it while fitting the tenons. Yep, threw the busted parts back on the scrap pile. Yep, used a few choice words. Yep, sat for about 2 1/2 minutes in the moaning chair, then, glued the broken part back together and completed the fitting the next morning. Since this picture, it has been soaking up my standard finish for shop tools, BLO.

Winding sticks are useful for detecting a twisted, or “wound,” board. The length of the sticks amplify the distortion, making it easy to know what area to correct. I do enough milling of rough lumber to make these frequently useful. They are made of Madrone, a hardwood that has a pink cast with some deep maroon streaks. I originally intended it for another purpose and wasn’t satisfied with how that project worked out, so I set the remainder aside. These sticks seem a very good use for the remnant. A little bit of time ripping and planing is all it took to make these. Planing with the long #7 (That’s a “jointer,” Jeff.) produced the true top and bottom edges. A few features, gleaned from Rob Rozaieski and Tom Fidgen, make them easy to use. First, one is stained darker to afford some contrast between them. Next, the bevels denote the “this side up” edge of the sticks. Lastly, the holes in the ends serve both to give them the same orientation and to provide a way to hang them from the shaker pegs on the back wall of the shop. Finish is BLO.

Three mini-projects done, and it’s still cold.

Highly recommended: Watch Rob Rozaieki’s episode about “Hand Tool Appliances” over at his Logan Cabinet Shoppe blog.

Art Display Easels

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Heidi, our daughter, is a mosaic artist. She displays her artwork at a variety of places and shows, and sometime uses simple easels for display. We visited her recently and heard her complaining about needing to return some borrowed easels before the current display period ended. What to do? Her mother suggested making more easels and looked my way. … hmmm? … OK.

Heidi and her family live in Austria. Like most homeowners, they have a collection of home fix-it tools that see frequent use, but is not the sort most of us wood workers would intentionally use for a furniture building project. The alternative of retrieving tools from my shop 6000 miles away was a non-starter, as was the idea of acquiring special purpose tools for a single project. Heidi had already determined the style of easel she wanted. My decision was what kind of joinery could be accomplished with the tools at hand.

I quizzed Franz-Georg, our son-in-law, about tools as we drove to the local home center. Having helped him with certain projects at their house before, I knew about most of their tools, but not about the chisels. The “yes, we have one or two” answer made my joinery decision. Goodbye to any joinery more complex than simple half-laps.

Lumber choice was limited both by availability and cost. There might have been a hardwood supplier nearby, but we didn’t look for one, so off to the Borg we went. The Borg stores in Austria are much like here in the US and also use the color orange for their branding. Their lumber selection is similar to ours, but almost twice as expensive. The EU has had “cap and trade” for a number of years already, and it shows in price tags of almost everything. We found some very clear larch for the stiles and fir for the rails, the different wood types limited by size choices (no larch in the smaller size). One of the interesting aspects of their S4S lumber is that when it says 20mm by 80mm, the lumber is actually that size! We carried home a number of pieces 2 meters long, along with a collection of hinges, fasteners, pegs, etc.

The easels are very simple, consisting of a rectangular frame for the face, a single leg in the back centered and hinged at the top. The leg extension is moderated by a brass chain that can be hooked into slightly opened eye screws. A simple shallow shelf supports the artwork and is supported by two pegs. The choice of several shelf positions is made available by a series of holes in the face stiles. These two stand 2 meters tall and 66cm wide. The width was determined by a 2 meter length of lumber cut into 3 even pieces. They look good enough to avoid detracting from the artwork, but not fancy enough to overpower the artwork. They are more stable than the loaners Heidi is currently using. Most important, she’s satisfied with them.

Making them teaches that something practical, useful, and reasonably attractive can be done with a minimal set of tools. I did use a couple of tailed demons. We used the side of a masonry blade in a cutoff grinder to regrind a 25mm chisel. Sort of like a high speed, no-control, two-person (one holds the grinder, the other holds the chisel), Tormek sharpener. :) Having removed the dings and nicks (looks like the kids had been cutting nails with the chisels), the rest of the sharpening was done with sandpaper at 120 and 240 grit. Now you see why half-lap joinery was as sophisticated as I wanted to get. The other power tool was a drill and 10mm brad point bit used for the holes in the stiles. The photo shows the rest of the tools: a simple square, two dowel points, pencil, brad point drill bit complete with a rubber ring used almost as a depth stop, the wonderfully honed chisel, a hammer, 4 clamps, a gimlet!, a Phillips screwdriver, some sandpaper, and a Workmate bench. A little 8 inch utility handsaw failed to show up for the photo shoot. Too bad we missed it. If one avoided the kink about 3/4 an inch from the tip, some roughly precise laps could be cut, then trimmed with the chisel. I was really delighted to find the gimlet. I used it to make pilot holes for the screws that hold the hinges. One of the best tools in the collection!

Two sorts of PVA glue were available, “Classic” and “waterproof.” I used the Classic, thinking it likely to be the stronger. I originally considered doweling the joints for added longevity, but rejected the idea on considering how to flush cut the dowels without making an ugly mess of things. Finish consisted of sanding down to 240, edges rounded over, pseudo chamfered, and a few coats of a clear substance similar to poly.

Workroom cleanup fell to the really cute R2D2 shop vac. Unfortunately, he needs a new bag and didn’t suck.